2018 WSHL Storylines

by Steven Force

The Western States Shootout has concluded, where the Western Division proved to be the top division finishing the showcase with a combined 11-6-1 record.  Now that the first half of the season is over, it’s time to look ahead to the playoff push coming up, and some storylines to follow in the second half of the season.

Race to the Top

The Long Beach Bombers will start 2018 with an eight-point lead atop the Western Division, but that lead may not last long.  Ontario ended the first half on an 11-game winning streak, the longest active streak in the league, and now finds themselves second in the division.  The Avalanche don’t play the Bombers again until February, when they’ll play two in Long Beach and one in Ontario to finish the season series.

The Avalanche aren’t the only team that could compete for the top spot in the West.  The Valencia Flyers sit just one point behind Ontario going into 2018.  Valencia also had a game in hand on the Avalanche, and two games in hand on the Bombers.  The early part of Valencia’s 2018 schedule will be key to them closing the gap, as they play their first seven at home against Phoenix, Fresno and San Diego.

Kranabetter Record Chase

Before the season started, I talked to Tomas Nemeth about holding the all-time scoring record in WSHL history.  He might not be holding that record for much longer.  Valencia’s Jakob Kranabetter is closing in on Nemeth’s all-time marks for both points and assists.  Coming into the second half of the season, Kranabetter sits with 206 career assists, just four away from Nemeth’s 210.  His 292 career points are also just 33 points away from tying Nemeth’s 325 points. 

Based off his production levels this season, Kranabetter is on pace to become the league’s all-time leading scorer in mid-February.  The assist record could be broken as soon as mid-January.

Scoring Leaders

Three of the top ten scorers in the league come from the Western Division.  Fresno’s Daylon Mannon (38G, 39A) and Cody Key (29G, 39A) sit 2nd and 6th respectively.  Valencia’s Jakob Kranabetter (17G, 52A) is right in the middle, sitting 4th in the league.  All three will have some work to do to catch Matus Spodniak of Ogden, who is currently leading the league with 94 points, 17 more than Mannon who is second in scoring.

However, when looking at points-per-game rather than point totals, the Western Division’s top scorers look even better.  Spodniak is of course first, but Mannon, Kranabetter and Key are second, third and fourth in the league. 

What storylines will you be watching in 2018? Let me know on Twitter @Steven_Force_